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Students lead tours of RPS 205 schools

Za Nia Harris (second from left) leads a tour of Eisenhower Middle School, where she is in the eighth grade.

Za Nia Harris (second from left) leads a tour of Eisenhower Middle School, where she is in the eighth grade.

During a student-led tour of Eisenhower Middle School, eighth grader Za Nia Harris was equally as comfortable talking about what’s good in the cafeteria (cream of turkey and spicy chicken sandwich), as talking about goal-setting, a school strength.

Za Nia was certainly eager, but she was careful not to monopolize the tour. She would often turn to the quieter sixth grader Jasmine Vanegas and allow Jasmine to lead part of the tour or answer a question.

Za Nia and Jasmine are among 39 student ambassadors who led tours for employees in six Rockford Public Schools this month: Eisenhower and Thurgood Marshall middle schools and Bloom, Washington, Welsh and Whitehead elementary schools. The tours marked the end of this year’s student ambassador training.

First-time jitters weren’t apparent. Even so, the more practice the students get, the better they will be, said Nicole Bergren, liaison in the RPS 205 Parent and Community Engagement Department. She sees the growth in her role training the ambassadors. “Some have natural ability. Some need a lot more work. Just like the classroom,” Bergren said.

Student-led tours are part of the RPS 205 vision to be the first choice for all families. The goal is to see the schools from the perspective of people who know them best—the students. During training, students learn what it takes to be strong ambassadors. They practice greetings, eye contact and firm handshakes. They learn how to tell their story and make small talk. They create talking points about the school.

For students, it’s a critical part of socio-emotional learning. For the people getting the tour, it’s educational, too.

Breanna Johansen is an executive assistant to RPS 205 leaders including Deputy Superintendent Matt Vosberg. Not every call she handles is positive, so the tour offered welcome context.

“Since starting with the district four years ago, this is the first time I have had the opportunity to visit a school and left feeling so encouraged,”  Johansen said. “Kayla (Wilkes) and Ahmad (Williams) were fantastic tour guides and I loved seeing Ahmad come out of his shell by the end of the tour.”

About half of the district’s 45 schools have trained student ambassadors, including all four traditional high schools. A crew will be trained in all schools by the end of the 2018-19 school year. If you are interested in taking a tour, send an email to nicole.bergren@rps205.com

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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